The Public Forum presented by the Kanab City Council and the City Planning Commission held on Feb. 18 at the new Kanab Center seemed to those attending to be a rousing success. Approximately 300 members of the public attended, circulating among the tables, display charts, and representatives of the city, asking numerous questions and posing ideas for change. Surveys were distributed and many were returned with valuable feedback into the process that City Planner Bob Nicholson said, “is the way to contribute to change at this level of government.”

City Land Use Coordinator Mike Reynolds remarked, “I think we had an exceptionally good turnout. It was even more than I expected. One of the positive things was people were talking to staff, but also each other. I felt good about the community coming together discussing the various aspects of the General Plan. I think it accomplished everything I wanted to see out of it.”

The Willow Ballroom was ringed with eight stations, each designed to discuss one major aspect of the General Plan. One of the most interesting was the discussion on the Highway 89 corridor, which is under review. The city and the Utah Department of Transportation are reviewing the layout and design of what is presently a four-lane highway through town. Future decisions might be made that could alter this to a two-lane road with additional parking or a two-lane road with a third lane for turning. This was all still in the evaluation stages.

Kelly Stowell manned his area of expertise in Parks and Recreation, and was queried about the developing trail from town to the Jackson Flat Reservoir to extend the walking and bike trails around the reservoir into the city. He stated, “The city recently purchased a piece of property so they can expand the city maintenance yard, and the city is giving us the northwest corner to put in a trailhead and little park eventually. From there the trail leads south and connects to Jackson Flat’s about 1.2 to 1.4 miles. The city is working with the Kane County Water Conservancy District and the city purchased a strip along the property line for the trail. The grants involved were from the Utah Outdoor Recreation, in addition to other sources, including Kanab City, Kane County and the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage. Initial work has been done, and it will be open to the public by June 30.”

Later Stowell mentioned that a series of future trails were in the works to add additional walking and biking trails across the highway and through town northward to the park.

Chris Heaton, Chairman of the Kanab City Planning Commission, was asked about the speed of growth and changes, and how he would answer those who say we have had enough tourist growth.

He responded, “Change is going to happen. We just want it to grow smart. As chairman and a member of the planning commission we want it to grow as smart as we can, that’s why we’re there. That’s why we have the current ordinances so we can help it grow in the way we want. I’ve talked to several people this evening that think we don’t have enough housing, that think we have too many hotels. It’s a hard line. When I came onto the commission, I thought it would be simple, black and white, but it’s hard for the government to restrict certain things, to allow certain things, there’s more things that need to be done. It’s not as cut and dried as I thought it would be. I think we’re going to grow, we just hope it grows the best it can.”

When asked further about tourist-based projects coming before the commission and the city staff, he responded, “If it fits the ordinances, the commission is kind of tied by those ordinances. That’s why these meetings are so important to get the public’s opinion on how we need to handle these current ordinances. The Kanab City Council has more freedom, they can reject things or change things a little more. But if it fits the plan and the ordinances, that’s the direction the commission is given.”

Heaton was asked what could happen if too many motels come into Kanab, and he said, “To me it goes back to the market. If the market is demanding it and they can find employees, that’s allowing them to build these motels. However, it’s my understanding not as many people came in 2019 as in 2018, so some of the Air B and Bs and motels did not fill as much. Some of the Air B and Bs are turning into long-term rentals, and the market is shifting a little bit.”

Concerning that trend he responded, “I think the growth will level out. Not sure when, but history has shown… we have booms… and then busts and I think we will level out.”

He agrees that a saturation mark will be reached for tourist housing and then stabilize.

Further discussions along these same lines with City Council member Jeff Yates centered on the fairness issues when land sells and the buyers are following all the rules. The city must be fair to all parties concerned, and if the proposed use is within the zoning regulations, the project, most likely, will be approved. He explained, “You have to be fair to the people that own that property that was zoned for the purposes they bought it for.”

Yates encouraged all persons with concerns to voice those concerns to the commission and the city council during this General Plan Review period, as this is the time to suggest changes.

During these discussions it was ascertained that some valid reasons could exist that would give the council or the planning commission pause when a new project is proposed, but those reasons have to do with the inability to provide services, such as water or sewer. It is only then that the city could withhold approval, and then it might only be temporary until the service is restored and could be provided.

The process of reviewing the General Plan will continue. Surveys must be collected and tabulated. The work is only beginning. The planning commission will have a public meeting to announce the proposed final General Plan before voting to submit it to the Kanab City Council.